By Mike Murphy
Cold fronts in the area here should be beginning to subside. With that, waters should be warming up and bringing in the Spanish mackerel and king mackerel, or kingfish. The water is very clear right now due to the drop in water temps. Coming in March, the only big issue will be finding a day with low to moderate winds.
Temperature of the water is key to finding these great fighting, pelagic fish. Start with a larger rod and real setup. For Spanish mackerel, the traditional setup is sufficient. Steel leader is sometimes a go-to but can be cumbersome to use and result in some leader-shy fish that won’t hit.
Find the big schools of bait, which will make their appearance first in front of the Skyway Fishing Piers. Greenies will be a great bet on catching these fish but try to find some long shank hooks, 1/0, at your local bait shops. This will reduce many of the cutoffs that always occur when fishing these toothy fish. Gotcha plugs, also at the local bait shops, are a great cast-and-retrieve lure to catch many of these fish. Fast, sporadic jerky on the retrieve is the best method. Silver spoons are also a go-to.
Kings are a much larger cousin of the Spanish mackerel and require a stouter setup to haul in. A heavy rod matched with a 6000 series reel is a great setup. A 60 lb. test main line with 45-65 lb. steel leader will work great.
Stinger rigs, which can be handmade or ready-made and purchased at bait shops. These comprise of a 3 ft. length of leader attached to a 4/0 bait hook. Attached to the hook will be another 4-5 in. segment of steel with a #4 treble hook as the stinger. These are designed for trolling through and around the bait balls you will see getting worked by kings and Spanish mackerel.
Live bait is the best and are caught with sabiki rigs, #6 or #8, jigged around the pilings, buoys or the bait school you will see. Large threadfin and blue runners are the baits of choice. Troll about four knots, and be sure you set your poles in tight to the rod holders as these kings hit that bait like a freight train.
Check your local bait shops, Bait and Tackle of Apollo Beach, Palmetto Bait & Tackle and Reel ‘Em In Bait & Tackle, for the latest news on the sights of bait pods. Outside and inside the Skyway Fishing Piers for Spanish and outside the Skyway, all the way out to Marker 1, Whistle Buoy, in the channel out of the bay.